9 May 2022 | Collaboration | Our Work

Industry Interview: Paula Claytonsmith, LCRIG

Paula Claytonsmith recently joined the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG) as Director, Government and Strategy. Here, Paula talks about why she has joined the organisation, the challenges facing local highway authority teams and how she hopes to help them. 


Q. Why have you decided to join the Local Council Roads Innovation Group?

A. “I’ve always joined organisations that I feel are trying to make a difference. I’ve worked in frontline services in councils including London boroughs, lobbying and policy in charities (health and environment related), global consultancies, political organisations and innovative SMEs – but the consistent thread is public service. After working at Gaist for seven years, I wanted to return to my passion for service innovation, policy, research and improvement. LCRIG is a fast-moving and growing organisation with big plans for what it can do to help the sector and government. I find this incredibly exciting, and I want to play a key part in helping make this happen.”


Q. What will your role entail?

A. “My role will be quite varied but distilling policy, research and insight for councils and associate members will be a big part of my work. There is a wealth of data (LCRIG and external to LCRIG), learning, and transfer of knowledge both inter-sector, cross sector and from other sectors. However, getting this shared widely in a useable and useful way is important because not everyone has the time to delve into detailed policy, research or what good practice is happening in the sector. I will also be working closely with the Transport Technology Forum, DfT colleagues, other Government departments, agencies and of course the supply chain to develop a programme of activity that will be more strategically and nationally focused.”


Q. In what ways do you think LCRIG helps to ‘make the case for local roads’?

A. “LCRIG has established itself at the heart of the sector and has built wide reaching trusted relationships across all types of highway authorities both urban and rural, county and unitary and a vibrant supply chain looking to innovate. This trusted relationship allows LCRIG to build a voice to those of influence and make the case for local roads. LCRIG’s strength is in its reach across the sector and our ability to collaborate and bring the sector together is important when building any case.”


Q. What are some of the key objectives that you’re hoping to meet whilst in the role?

A. “My main objectives will be working with all parts of our membership to deliver trusted insight and research that synthesises the wealth of information available to the sector. This means I’ll be looking at how we can help facilitate more collaboration and innovation by drawing out lessons from this, whilst also drawing out national learning to help highlight the importance of local roads.

“The subject and specifics are something I’ll be building after an initial period hearing directly from various voices, organisations and supply chain in the sector. It’s important to me and LCRIG that I don’t predetermine what this is but LCRIG’s core pillars will play a big part. Therefore, I’ll be out and about at key events over the next month such as the TTF Conference, Innovation Festival and other events to hear directly about what matters. So, if you see me, please introduce yourself or reacquaint yourself with me after two years of video meetings and let me know what is needed. I can’t promise we can do everything but it’s important I get the right programme of policy, insight and research.”


Q. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing local highway authority teams?

A. “These are varied and complex as anyone will know that’s managed a council service, but I think for highways it is the changing landscape of how roads will be used and managed in the future. Climate change and reaching Net Zero will be part of the challenge along with the impact of the environment on our infrastructure. Collaboration may seem an over used term but when resources and skills are in short supply it can lead to an overwhelmed sector with some excelling, but others retreating to heads down behaviour. Skills and new young people coming into the sector is a real lurking issue, I’m keen to ensure we highlight the great work that LCRIG Board member Dwayne Lowe is doing at Blackburn with Darwen Council. Much of the levelling up agenda will require balancing the disparities between communities and the way things are done around the country. Skills will play a key part of this.”


Q. How big a role does the supply chain have to play when it comes to facilitating collaboration and innovation?

A. “Having recently come from the supply chain they have such a big part to play in working with councils and government. New products that help with the challenges councils face, new or enhanced services to increase productivity (on all sides) and of course if the supply chain fails so does society and the public sector.” 


Q. Many councils have declared climate emergencies and getting to net zero will be a challenge. But what opportunities do you think will be brought about as they embark on this journey?

A. “I’ve been in or around the public sector since I left school and one thing you can guarantee is that councils explore opportunities out of both necessity but also as a key part of serving their communities. I think too often we think about big change, and I think for some councils (for many reasons) the sum of micro-opportunities to achieve Net Zero will be a whole part of their journey. However, we must hear more about both the micro and macro things councils are doing and my job will be part of LCRIG’s to get these heard. The LCRIG webinar series on Net Zero is one that I urge people to get involved in. The next being on the subject of materials which of course is a key issue for our industry.”


Q. When thinking about your own experience, how will you draw on this to help make change happen?

A. “My varied background means I’ll be well placed to bring out the “nub” of what’s important to a cross range of sectors. I’ve run frontline council services; I’ve experienced and delivered services that communities want or need. I’ve seen behind the scenes of the work elected members and politicians do. I’ve worked in large organisations not just delivering transformation but also analysing what the transformation needed to be in the first place to make it work. All this and other parts of my career mean my experience is in drawing out the best of local government and suppliers but also unpicking the “real” things that had to happen to instil good practice or a change in behaviour.” 


Q. How do you plan on engaging with LCRIG members?

A. “For me this will be multi-faceted, events (in-person), opportunities like this to reach out to people and hear about their challenges, testing how councils will prepare themselves for the future through direct conversations but also speaking with suppliers (large and small) and suggested contacts from DfT and other agencies.” 


Q. Do you have a message for councils and the supply chain?

A. “Yes, LCRIG’s mission is to “Facilitate collaboration and innovation to help highlight the importance of local roads.” As a Community Interest Company our mission is to do this to the best of our ability. So please get involved, share what you’re doing and if you struggle to get involved let us know why, let us think creatively about how we can help you.

“Finally, I just want to reiterate how excited I am to be joining LCRIG in this new role. I will be sharing what I’m doing through our membership updates and other forums, but you can be sure that through it all I’ll be making the case for local roads.”

Paula can be contacted at: [email protected]